Repealing Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) has been a Republican goal since the bill was signed by former President Barack Obama in 2010. The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in May that would be the first step in dismantling parts of the Affordable Care Act. The legislation passed 217 to 213 with 20 Republicans defecting, and every Democrat voting against. Senate Republicans took a look at the bill and decided it needed tweaking and are writing a version of their own.
The contents of the Senate version of the bill, however, are yet unknown. A small group of Republican Senators are crafting the bill behind closed doors and have been very secretive about their process and have released no information on what’s in the bill and have had no public hearings.
The House’s legislation kept one of the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act, which allows children to stay on their parent’s health insurance until 26. The bill slashes $880 billion from Medicaid according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and allows states to seek waivers that would allow insurers to charge those with pre-existing conditions higher premiums. The CBO is a non-partisan piece of Congress that studies the impacts of legislation.
The bill also cuts federal subsidies that are provided to people looking to gain health care through the marketplaces that the Affordable Care Act created. The House’s bill instead lets people use tax credits in private markets. It also cuts taxes on wealthy Americans and health insurers that helped fund segments of the Affordable Care Act. The CBO said that bill would result in 24 million people losing healthcare after a decade, but that federal budget deficit would be cut significantly. Premiums for most people would go up for the first two years, but then come down.
The bill was designed in a way that it would be passed only by a simple majority in Congress as opposed to a 60-vote majority for most laws. This is because it falls under a reconciliation category that affects bills that impact the federal budget.
How much of the House bill will be put into Republican-led Senate’s version remains to be seen.
“They’re ashamed of the bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to the New York Times Thursday. “If they liked the bill, they’d have brass bands marching down the middle of small-town America saying what a great bill it is. But they know it isn’t.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has defended the secrecy and hopes to have a vote by the July 4 recess, though no vote has been scheduled, and the CBO hasn’t yet scored the bill. Last week, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump called the House version of the bill “mean,” in a closed lunch, despite having a Rose Garden celebration when the bill was passed. McConnell’s secrecy aims to avoid similar criticism.
“Look, we’ve been dealing with this issue for seven years,” said McConnell to the Times. “It’s not a new thing.”
Many Republican Senators haven’t yet seen the bill either.
“Until I see the bill and the CBO assessment of the bill, I'm not going to feel comfortable taking a position,” said Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins to CNN Monday.